Local Jewish rocker helps craft PJ Library’s new online radio venture

Local Jewish musician Rick Recht has partnered with PJ Library, a nonprofit that provides families with free Jewish children’s books, for a new streaming service featuring Jewish music. Photo: rickrecht.com

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

Jewish Rock Radio, a St. Louis-based online streaming service, and PJ Library, the organization that sends children free Jewish books, have launched a new online radio station.

PJ Library Radio went live Dec. 1. It features an array of Jewish artists who can be heard through the platform’s website or mobile apps. 

PJ Library sends families a CD each December featuring Jewish music. The organization plans to phase out the CDs in favor of the radio service.

Rick Recht, executive director of Judaism Alive, the organization that operates Jewish Rock Radio, says he thinks CDs will go extinct in the next few years. He maintains that PJ Library Radio ensures Jewish music remains an “educational, inspirational vehicle for Jewish kids.”

Recht adds that while Jewish Rock Radio aims to reach teens and young adults, PJ Library Radio targets younger children. 

Jewish Rock Radio “provides a next step for them so that if and when they grow out of PJ Library Radio, they have another radio station that ties them through,” said Recht, who has performed on a PJ Library concert tour and acted as a spokesperson for the organization. “PJ Library Radio is not just kids’ music; it’s music for the family. If you listen to it, it just has high-quality music that is truly good for parents and children.”

Recht already has a number of other Jewish music endeavors aside from the radio platforms. In addition to performing, he leads the annual Songleader Bootcamp national conference in St. Louis, where Jewish professionals learn new ways to ways engage people through music. 

The Jewish streaming radios are different from apps like Spotify or Apple Music because, Recht says, most Jewish artists have not submitted their music through the wider apps. Of the music offered through those platforms, “the algorithms are not going to naturally choose the extremely small number of Jewish artists out there,” Recht added.

PJ Library Radio will pay licensing fees — a portion of which then goes to artists — the same way as other radio services.

PJ Library has more than 200,000 subscribers who receive three free Jewish children’s books each month and a CD each year. With the radio station, the organization will, for example, better be able to reach families with blocks of Passover-related music in the spring than just with the music that is sent out around Hanukkah, said Meredith Lewis, PJ Library director of content and engagement.

“We wanted to make music available more year round to families,” said Lewis. “And increase the diversity of our offerings and really cater to families with young children.”